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Report on: TCAF 2015

Ignoring what the movies say about the comic industry and superheroes, the actual comics community is made of art-school students and the self-taught enthusiasts who just see comics as a way to connect their minds to people. The Toronto Comics Art Festival is for fans of the comics that defy the Spider-man formula. TCAF 2015 was held at the Toronto Reference Library May 11-12, bringing fans to explore a graphical world of creative freedom.

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One exceptional quality to TCAF is that the gender ratio of the attendance is almost equal – if there aren’t more females. A complete rainbow of girls with short hair dyed in any color. TCAF offers them sanctuary from the mainstream comic culture’s traditional gender barriers. Barriers which are being broken down thanks to projects like Batgirl, Squirrel Girl, and Sam Magguilli’s burning hot release, the Fangirl’s Guide To The Galaxy.

Adventure Time and Scott Pilgrim, while well-represented, we no longer the forces they were. Now that the New Brand shine has worn off both, their fandoms are free to seek other creator-owned properties like Frank and Becky’s Tiny Kitten Teeth.

TCAF is not an event where floor space goes first come first serve to whoever has their wallet ready, exhibitors have to apply and show their work to a jury and some are rejected. Although quality is a subjective matter, you can be sure that nobody at the show is faking it by just tracing Batman. A lot of regular exhibitors were there, like the continually more popular locals Jim Zub and Jason Loo. Other regulars were absent, like Meredith Gran and Scott Chantler (although Scott put in an appearance as an attendee).

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Aside from exhibitors there was a selection of guests from all over the world. Many needing translators for their words but their illustration style holding international appeal.

Scott McCloud returned to share insight onto his newest release, “The Sculptor” – although he imbues his writing with a sense of humanity, his works give the impression that he would be more than man, like he would float around in monochrome, his gaze whispering insight directly into out minds, leaving a trail of panels, word balloons, and enlightenment. To find out he’s made of typical flesh and insecurities only strengthens the connection to his work.

A nice improvement over last year’s is the improved layout. Webcomics and other Big Draws feel like they were better distributed around rather than clumped into designated areas, so people seeking their favorites will be exposed to other comics on the way there. And more use of the second floor meant that there wasn’t a line for the Webcomic Pavillion. Perhaps next year TCAF will actually expand into the third floor.

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But one specialty section of the event was the “Comics vs Games” area (actually just game exhibits). Developers showed off their fun software samples of addictive games which were more about exploring creative game concepts instead of the usual Unreal/Halo games of abundant supply. The games section was a large draw to the children who don’t yet get the appeal of existential comics. While games drew people with lights and sound, TCAF’s UK Comics Pavilion, didn’t really grab too much attention.

With so many conventions trying to appeal to every large fandom they can with popular guests and photo shoots and rising ticket prices, it’s a miracle that TCAF has survived in a modern world and still kept admission free. It’s a distinct treat to see an event that’s just powered by pure affection for an art form.

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For hipsters hungry for more, it’s always TCAF in the Toronto Reference Library’s “Page & Panel” store. The Beguiling Events always have regular book launches and opportunities to meet interesting creators. And the Canzine event in October has lots to see crammed into a more intimate space.

-Michael S Ryan, May 11, 2015

Now shove-aside your self-respect and finish your Anime North cosplays.

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